Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Shift

It is as impossible to describe the point between ordinary and awakened consciousness as it is to describe a line between seasons. One day, some clue arises pointing to the reality of Fall, when just a week ago it was Summer. The season gathers momentum and seems to peak, but always carries within its movement the entire cycle of the year.

Insight often descends with a crash loud enough to awake the dead, thunder and lightning swirling, guaranteed to get the necessary attention. Violent storms can bring about an immediate concern for personal safety and an instant assessment of where one is standing. The focus narrows to now. In just such a way, unusually heightened focus in even ordinary weather brings attention to feeling, to state of mind, to size of being.

Some say that a serious forgetting of oneself and devotion to service is necessary to break out of ordinary suffering. Others say that intense attention to the smallest detail of experience in the moment is the proper prescription. Each of these ideas is perfectly valid, as one leads to the other, like day to night and back.

But people want to know what it's like on "the other side". On the other side, one can't know, because there is no other side. It becomes crystal clear that, not only am I looking directly at what I was seeking, but I have never been apart from it at all.

Some teachers are fond of saying that nothing is necessary in the "attainment" of enlightenment. It is true that I can look back at the struggling with a laugh, and point out that I was busy chasing my own tail. However, I truly don't know what is "necessary", and what isn't. Post-shift, an immediate understanding arises that whatever arises is "necessary". Emphasis upon relevance or irrelevance of any given physical, mental or emotional situation is entirely ours. In this, we have absolute power and complete freedom.

On the other hand, ego is dead. Everything in life moves of its own accord simultaneously, without cause, without end, without concern. Being stops positing a fundamental "I" which must control or submit. In that moment, "I" am plunged into the far reaches of reality. This is a poetic way of saying that I have the capacity to not only be aware of life, but as life. Not an echo of being, not an effect of it, but directly the whole of it. I can tell you that it is so whole, it can never be broken!

Still, there is "I" as a kind of technique, a shorthand, a bridge from one side of me to the other. A teacher might pounce on that assertion: Who is it that uses this "I" as technique, shorthand or bridge?

Why, no one, of course--and everyone! We do, to both ask and answer that question! We do, to point out the relevance/irrelevance of asserting and questioning and being, as we like to, out of love or frustration or whatever it is at the moment.

There is no above or below in our capacity as thinking, feeling, languaged/speechless Being. When the inevitable shift occurs, it turns out that, far from all questions being answered or points being made or goals being reached, there is a cessation of the impulse to create all these points in space and time. An unwinding occurs when it is seen that none of these big questions will ever be answered to our mental satisfaction, as mentalizing is not intended to make things whole, but to tear things apart.

A different season emerges, carrying both teacher and student, answers and questions, the cycle of life and death, and the highest skill involved in unknowing. That skill feels like the opening of a heart, literally and metaphorically. All I can do is open, and open, and open. The point of living becomes the awareness of places where this is not allowed and the exploration of these tightly grasped reflexes. One by one, they relax, and circulation is restored.

Love returns.

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